Migrants at the U.S. border

A migrant mother and her child at the U.S. border.

Only in the muck of the Trump administration could an Alabama Methodist insinuate God’s approval of a reprehensible governmental immigration policy that separates children from their parents.

This policy isn’t U.S. law, as President Donald Trump has wrongly said. This policy isn’t a holdover from the Obama administration or the Democratic Party. This is a Trump administration policy expressly designed to intimidate largely non-white, Spanish-speaking immigrants so they won’t attempt to cross the United States’ southern border. Any other attempted explanation drips in untruths.

That Alabama Methodist, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, doesn’t see children brought illegally by their parents into the United States as flesh and blood. They’re pawns in the Trump administration’s overly harsh campaign, easily used as human signals. Be warned, America’s immigration policy says, this is what will happen if you bring your child across the border.

The United States could detain and prosecute those who illegally cross our borders without separating them from their children. Instead, Sessions prefers a shock-and-awe approach that terrifies young innocents.

On Friday, the government confirmed that 1,995 children had been separated from 1,940 adults at the U.S.-Mexico border between April 19 and May 31. Sessions, who has taught Sunday school at his church in Mobile, this week used passages from Romans 13 in an attempt to biblically justify separating children from their parents. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions said.

Left unsaid by the attorney general is the centuries of debate over the meaning of that New Testament chapter. Loyalists and colonials both used Romans 13 passages in arguments during the American Revolution. Decades later, American slave owners and Southern defenders armed themselves with Romans 13 as proof that slavery, that era’s law of the land, was morally and biblically correct.

Lincoln Mullen, a historian at George Mason University, wrote Friday at Slate.com of an important 1775 sermon from Anglican priest David Griffith, who preached that Paul “never meant … to give sanction to the crimes of wicked and despotic men.” Sessions is a Republican politician under Trump’s thumb, not a biblical scholar or enlightened clergy.

On this topic, we prefer the guidance of those who value humanity, who view migrants and their children in a true biblical sense. On Friday, the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugee Section issued a comment from Pope Francis: “The Bible teaches that God ‘loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).”

We wonder what Alabama’s Christian clergy will say Sunday morning about this repugnant American development. If ever there was an opportunity for them to take a modern stand, it’s now.